Nov 30, 2012
But one thing we will not omit next month is an advent devotional. Thriving Family magazine has a simple and to-the-heart advent activity calender this year. If you don't receive the magazine (which is free, by the way), you can download the advent publication for free, right here. The devotional calendar takes minutes a day - and I know it will help my kids (and me!) focus on the true meaning of the Christmas season.
For those of you who are feeling more energetic, check out previous posts on advent. There are many simple ideas in these posts - as well as more elaborate ones:
Advent Activities for Kids
Activities to Go With Popular Christmas Books
Jul 30, 2012
But one man's wise words on this topic have haunted me for days. I read them in this month's Voice of the Martyr's magazine, in a a piece about a Laotian man who was once a communist governor. When he accepted Christ as his Savior, his former government friends threw him into prison. They tried to beat him to death; they tried to starve him. But he lived 13 years in prison. The details of his story are moving and inspiring, but it was his wise council to Americans that most struck me:
"I want to encourage believers in America to be strong in their faith. I know many Americans have not accepted Jesus Christ yet, but you have the freedom to proclaim Jesus and share the gospel. Go evangelize in the name of Jesus because you can. You have the right to read the Bible, to pray and go to church. Please do that."(Emphasis mine.)
Throughout the world, there are millions* of Christians who are not legally allowed to attend church. Therefore, we free Christians must go to church. There are millions of Christians who cannot obtain a copy of the Bible, and - should they manage to get their hands on a smuggled copy - can only read it in secret. Therefore, we free Christians must read our Bibles. There are Christians who cannot pray publicly. Therefore, those of us who can, must. And there are millions of Christians who risk their lives by teaching others about Christ. Therefore, we must share the Gospel whenever possible.
* According to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights because of their faith.
Sep 8, 2011
The first step for me was to fully embrace the day of rest that even God required. (Gen. 2:2-3) God commands us to keep the Sabbath and make it holy and without work (Deut. 5:12-15). Period.
I'll admit, it took me years to completely get my head and heart around a day of rest. But with Bible study and prayer, I've been able to submit to this command - and it's been a true blessing in our lives.
Yet among believers, there's a lot of debate about just how to keep the Sabbath. A few centuries ago, it wasn't uncommon for Christians to do nothing but go to church, read the Bible, pray, read devotionals, and meditate on the Lord on the Sabbath. By contrast, many modern Christians catch up on their chores.
For me, the biggest question was "What constitutes work?" You can read my 2010 post on that topic here. If you, too, wonder on this topic, I think that's a good sign. It means you are truly trying to obey God.
I am not going to give out a list of do's and don'ts for the Sabbath. I think it's important for all Christians to study the Bible and pray on this topic. (Here's one interesting article on the topic, to get you started. Here's another.) However, I would like to offer some ideas on how mothers can more easily observe God's holy day of "no work."
* Eat food that's already prepared and just needs reheating (or can be eaten cold). If you already double recipes and freeze them, this may be easy. Or you can double the meal the night before and keep it in the fridge. Or, the day before you can whip up another, simple meal from that night's leftovers, and refrigerate it.
* Do the dishes the night before. Sometimes I forget to do this, or I simply run out of time to do it. I'm learning to stop obsessing over that pile of dishes in the sink so I can focus on God - but I admit this is a tough one for me. Ideally, the dishes should be done and put away the night before; this way, we can just slip dirty dishes into the dishwasher on the Sabbath, keeping my mind more focused on God, not housework.
* Do at least one load of laundry every day, so you don't feel pressed to do any on the Sabbath. A day or two before the Sabbath, make sure everyone has clean clothes for Monday, so you aren't tempted to run "just one load" on the Sabbath.
* Make the day after the Sabbath "clean up" day. Spend the morning doing housework, so you don't feel burdened by it later in the week. Ideally, get the housework done the day before the Sabbath.
* Have lots of family time - and work to center that time around God. For example, if you go on a family outing in the woods, talk with your children about God's creation, pointing out specific examples of his ingenuity.
* Although a lot of people focus on what they're not supposed to do on the Sabbath, try to rein vision the Sabbath by thinking about the things Jesus told us we could do. For example, all works related to helping the needy are encouraged. (See, for example, Mark 3: 1-6.)
How do you observe the Sabbath?
Jan 3, 2011
I think every mom feels overwhelmed at least some of the time. But if you're going through a prolonged period of feeling stressed and overwheled, it's time to take action:
1. Worship God. Nothing gets things in perspective quicker than dropping everything and worshiping the Lord. While you're at it, make sure you're finding time to read the Bible and pray. When we're busy, these things can all too easily fall by the wayside - yet they are often the very cause of our stressed out feelings. We need to spend time with God.
2. Go to church. It sets the mood for the entire week. Go by yourself, if you have to.
3. Sleep. I've argued before that sleep is one of the main things every mom truly needs. Get more rest and you may be surprised how your perspective changes.
4. Do only essentials. There are many good things we can do here on earth, but if those good things are interfering with our mental health or our ability to do a good job at the first task God's given us (to be great wives and mothers), then we need to stop and focus on essentials. Sometimes the essentials are easy to spot...sometimes they are not. For example, while it's probably a good thing to try to organize and de-clutter the house, if it's making you feel overwhelmed, stop. Come back to it another time, when your responsibilities aren't so overwhelming.
5. Cut back work. If you have a job besides your chief position as wife and mother, consider quitting. Analyze your family budget and cut non-essentials; reconsider your lifestyle. Although not ever woman can quit her job, a relaxed, loving Proverbs 31 Woman is a lot more important than having a big house, dinners out, or a subscription to Netflix.
6. Find time for yourself. How long has it been since you took a walk? Read a novel? Went to the gym? Took a soak in the tub? Finding even just a little time for yourself is essential. And if you can combine it with exercise, you'll feel all the better.
7. Focus on one thing at a time. Often when I feel overwhelmed I find I'm trying to juggle too many things. Stop. Breathe. Choose one thing. You'll enjoy life more and you'll do a better job at whatever you're doing.
"For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."
Nov 18, 2010
What do you do when you have a month like this? Certainly I pray a lot and read the Bible in stolen moments. But the one thing that instantly melts away the stress is music. Not ordinary popular music. That narcissistic stuff actually tends to make me tense up more at times like this. No, I need music about God. Hymns are my favorite, since the lyrics remind me of deep biblical truths, God's promises to me, and God's love and mercy for me.
Unfortunately I have very few CDs with hymns in my house. Fortunately, however, I can get virtually any kind of music I want through Pandora - Internet radio that's 100% free. So give some hymns a try next time you're having a tough day, and see if your soul doesn't feel more comforted, too.
Aug 30, 2010
In the past couple of weeks I've canned:
21 quarts of peaches
9 pints of cucumber pickles
12 quarts of tomatoes
6 pints of apricots
64 quarts of blueberry syrup
48 quarts of blueberry butter
18 quarts of apple sauce
I also froze a ton of summer squash and cabbage; I've lost track of how much.
I'm tired. Really, really tired. And while a Proverbs 31 Woman is productive, she should never be bone tired. Because a bone tired woman cannot be an effective wife and mother. If she neglects her own basic spiritual or physical needs, she's bound to start neglecting her family's, too. Even Jesus, during a ministry with such limited time, rested.
So as I take a day or two to recuperate, I hope you'll remember to rest now and then, too.
Aug 27, 2010
No, I may not covet my neighbor's husband, but have I ever thought, "I wish my husband would help out with chores the way her's does" or "I wish my house was as big as hers" or "I wish I could stay home with my kids all day the way she does" or even "I wish I had a garden like that"?
None of these thoughts may seem initially harmful, but when we covet even the small things we open up our lives to a wide variety of sins, including jealousy. We also allow discontent to grow in our hearts, when in fact we should thank God for what he's chosen to give us - and for what he's chosen to give to our neighbor. Coveting leads to grumbling, the blues, and resentment. Thankfulness leads to smiles, laughter, and contentment.
Which sort of behavior are you modeling for your children?
Mar 10, 2010
But rather than push myself, I've found that during tiring times like these, I need to be as kind to myself as possible. That means I might sacrifice a little time alone with my husband to go soak in the tub and read a novel. (He doesn't mind because I'm much more pleasant to be around afterward.) I also drop everything that's unncessary.
That last part isn't easy to do. I try to keep my life as pared down as possible, so when I'm feeling weary, what exactly can I cut? Often, it's mopping the floor. Or picking up toys. Or taking on cleaning chores I'd like to do (like scrub down the kitchen table where my toddler has splattered a gazillion foods), but that don't really need to be done right now.
But the most important thing I do during weary times is seek out God more persistently. When I want to snap at the children because they are fussy and I'm exhausted, I pray first. (This actually has the bonus side effect of allowing my kids to see me pray "in action," while opening their eyes to the fact that Mommy has needs, too.) Even though tiring times usually equal less time to read, I work harder to find time to read the Bible, also - even if it means reading only a single verse at a time. And, whenever possible, I pray with someone else, because Jesus says:
"... if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."God knows how hard motherhood is. He knows exactly how weary you feel. But if we remember to seek him out every day - even when we are at our worst - he will reward us. He will help us. He will give us peace despite the storm.
Mar 5, 2010
"Once upon a time a beautiful princess married a hunky, young prince. She possessed creativity and a zeal for life. Her new husband loved this about her. Sometimes her spontaneous actions backfired on both of them, but he still encouraged her to be the fabulous, fun person she was. Joy shone through her green eyes as she surveyed their future together.Read the rest here.
In time the royal couple added children and a mortgage to their kingdom. The princess loved her family dearly and longed to create the perfect home for them. As the family grew, so did the gravity of her task. Laundry piled higher and higher in the castle turrets. This, among other royal duties, prevented the lovely princess from getting out as often as she would like. Always observant, the wicked Hafftoos decided this was the perfect time to attack.
Not every knows about Hafftoos. Not everyone can see them, but believe me: they are very real. These sneaky little trolls wander around ever so carefully through delightful and quaint villages stealing innocents’ joy. They transform tasks into chores and desires into burdens..."
Feb 10, 2010
But here's the thing: It's not enough to spend time in the garden, or reading a great novel, or having your hair done, or whatever it is you most like to do. You can have what others might call a terrific night out "with the girls" and still come home feeling dissatisfied and empty. Having time for your friends and hobbies is important, but won't really rejuvenate you. It's only by spending time with your Father that you can truly be rejuvenated.
Some days, we moms just have to survive. Especially when our kids are young, it may seem impossible to find time to spend with God. I encourage you to keep striving toward the goal of being with him daily - even if all that means is a quick prayer after you lock the bathroom door behind you. But when you are weary - weary to your very marrow - make the time, whatever you must do, to spend at least a half hour with the Father. He will encourage you. He will lift your heavy heart. He will rejuvenate you. Go to him - not girlfriend time at Starbucks or alone time in the mall - and expect great things.
Jan 28, 2010
Before I had kids, not working on the Sabbath was easy. But now that I'm a mom, some weeks I really struggle to keep the Sabbath holy. Most of my struggle comes from a single question: What constitutes work? Feeding the baby often feels like a lot of work, but obviously I can't not feed him. And what about dirty diapers, corralling hyper children, and warming up dinner? I consider all these things work, but not doing them would have seriously negative consequences. I don't think God wants me to starve my family or let them get diaper rash in the name of being holy.
Other things gnaw at me, too. Cooking dinner is work. So is picking up the house, doing dishes, and tossing in a load of laundry. I can avoid these things on the Sabbath if I plan ahead, though. For example, I can make frozen meals during the week (or even just make sure there are left overs on from the night before) so I can rest on the Lord's day. I can also make sure the dishes and laundry are done before Sabbath, and if I can't find the energy to pick up the biggest messes before Saturday, I can do my best not to be perturbed by them until the next day.
The Sabbath also happens to be my "free day" - the day my hubby helps out more with the kids and gives me a little bit of time to do things for myself. This means I long to get out in the garden, or do a little organizing, or do some writing (for fun, not money). But all these things are work. Is it wrong for me to do them on the Sabbath? I cannot answer this question for you, but I know that for myself, as long as it doesn't feel like work, and as long as I feel rejuvenated afterward, I don't believe God minds - especially if I take the time to reflect on him and talk with him as I do them.
Do you struggle with keeping the Sabbath holy? How do you cope with the responsibilities of wife and mother while still obeying God on his holy day? If you're struggling in this area, pray, pray, pray. God will help you come to terms with the Sabbath, and teach you what is right and good. The matter isn't completely settled in my life; I still long to rest more each Sabbath, but I know God is working in me, making me more like the Proverbs 31 Woman - even on the Sabbath.
Jan 20, 2010
-- Because God tells us to. See for example Deut. 11:18 ("Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds, tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads")
-- To help us worship God. During our busy lives, verses will come to mind that remind us to stop and worship or talk to God in the midst of busy-ness.
-- To remind us of God's commands. ("I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Ps. 119:11)
-- To help others in troubled times. How many times have you wished you knew the right thing to say to someone who is suffering? The Bible offers the truest hope there is, making it the perfect thing to quote in troubling times.
-- To comfort us when we're troubled.
-- To witness and answer questions of unbelievers.
If you haven't yet begun teaching your child memory verses, start today! And be sure to memorize along with them. Here are some ideas to make this a fun, easy project for the entire family. Try out several, and discover which ideas work best for you:
Read the entire verse many times, out loud. Then try to say it without looking.
Instead of memorizing the entire verse all at once, memorize parts of it. Repeat a phrase several times, then try to say it out loud without looking. When you can do that correctly, move on to another phrase.
Write the verse over and over.
Write the verse on several index cards, then place the cards throughout the house, where you’re likely to see them.
Print out a bookmark with the Bible verse on it. Place it in a book you’re currently reading, making sure to read the entire verse each time you open and close the book.
Try implementing the verse throughout the day, reading it (or repeating it in your head) as you do so. For example, if you’re memorizing the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31), think of several practical ways to do for others. A child might do dishes for her mother, teach her little sister how to tie her shoes, and give her dad a back rub, for example. As you do each of these things, recite your memory verse.
Draw a picture representing the Bible verse, as someone else recites the verse to you repeatedly.
Write your memory verse on your mirror with lipstick or soap.
Keep a copy of your memory verse by the television’s remote control. Every time there’s a commercial, read the verse over and over until your program comes back on.
Make a collage of magazine illustrations that relate to your memory verse, while someone else reads the verse out loud.
Print your memory verse on your lunch bag, or tape it onto your lunch box, so you can read it repeatedly at lunch time.
Write your memory verse out on a dry erase board. Read it over many times, then try to recite it. If you fail, rewrite the verse on the board and try again.
Once you think you know a verse by heart, recite it twice a day for a week before moving on to another verse.
Make sure verses stay in your memory by using chore time and waiting time to review verses you’ve already memorized. Washing dishes, taking out the trash, ironing, waiting at a stop light, waiting in the doctor’s office, and a million other mindless things eat up our days. Use that time for good by keeping memorized Bible verses fresh in your mind!
Introduce a new verse at dinner, right after prayer. Discuss it, then have everyone read the verse at least once. Then try to recite it perfectly. Who gets it right first?
Make up a melody for the verse. Sometimes putting it to music makes it easier to memorize. You can make up your own tunes, or try the ones at Pursuing Life Ministries.
Set realistic goals. Your children should be able to memorize a verse a week, if you make it a priority. Adults who have a more difficult time memorizing should set a personalized goal: Perhaps one verse every two or three weeks.
Choose verses ahead of time. Although it makes sense to choose verses that will help your family with current problems (like fear or anger), try to choose at least a month’s worth of verses in advance. More is better. Type them into a Word document, so all you have to do is scan the verses to choose your next one. This prevents putting off memorization.
Before you start memorizing, read the verse in context. It will help you understand the true meaning of the verse.
Record the Bible verse on your MP3 player. Play it over and over in the car, while you exercise…
Use bathtub crayons to write out the verse on the side of the tub or shower. Read the verse repeatedly while bathing each day.
Use a reasonable amount of time to work on memorizing scripture each day. Try at least five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening.
Start memorizing short verses first. When you are confident that you can do this, move on to longer verses.
Ask God to help you memorize Bible verses.
Work out motions to go with a Bible verse. This especially helps small children.
Dec 29, 2009
Have you ever stopped to consider if Sunday School is really the best thing for your child?
Sunday school is a relatively new innovation, begun by British philanthropist Robert Raikes in 1782. Raikes wanted to give poor children a better chance at life through education. He used the Bible as his curriculum and taught on Sundays because the children worked every other day of the week. A century later, over five and three-quarters of British children were attending Sunday school. The trend was similar in the United States, and as government-run schooling developed, Sunday school changed from the teaching of reading and math to the teaching of the Gospel.
But here's the problem: Two-thirds of people (60%!) who grew up in Sunday school move away from the church in their early 20s.
In a new study by Britt Beemer – former senior research analyst for the Heritage Foundation and founder of the American Research Group – it was also found that kids who attend Sunday school regularly are more likely to question the authority of the Bible, and defend abortion, premarital sex, and same-sex marriage.
Why? Some (like Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis) believes it's because kids have been taught in school that evolution is real; but because the Bible teaches differently, they begin to question everything the Bible teaches. Others think that by ushering our kids into Sunday school, we're teaching them they aren't wanted in church. Still others say Sunday school is a symptom of our youth-indulging society that never asks much of children.
As a child, I attended both Sunday school and church. I must tell you I never learned much about God or the Bible in Sunday school. I learned much more in "big people church," where I wasn't expected to learn anything at all. I realize not all Sunday school classes are sun the same way, but I don't think many prepare children for the quiet thoughtfulness of church services.
I don't think it's "expecting too much" for young children to sit through church service. I also think there is great value in children seeing their parents worshiping in church. After all, study after study shows young kids most want to mimic their parents.
If you want to start taking your child into church services with you, here are some tips to get your started:
Start at home. Learning to sit and listen is a skill that will benefit your children for a lifetime. Begin when your kids are toddlers by having them sit quietly and listen to you read. For really wiggly children, give them a quiet toy to play with while you read aloud or listen to a book on CD. Play games that encourage quietness, like "How soft can you whisper?" and "Can you walk across the room carrying this bell without making it ring?" and "Let's see if you can close that door without making any noise," and "Can you hear this pin drop?" Start with just five minutes of quiet, wiggle free time, and move up as your child's skills improve.
Express your expectations. Let your kids know what you expect of them in church. Start the day before, then remind them on the trip to church.
Get dad involved. Be on the same page with your husband about what expectations are, how you will help your children behave during service, and how discipline will be handled.
Consider sitting closer. Some children stay more interested if they aren't distracted by a sea of church-goers. You can help by pointing out things, "That's Mary. She's going to sing a song about Jesus. That's the pastor. He's going to tell us how we can get to know God better," etc.
Babies. See if you can train your baby to nap during surmons; this means training her to nap at this time every day. This practice not only starts the family church time tradition early, it prevents your baby from being exposed to a bunch of runny noses in the nursery.
Toddlers. Place them between you and your hubby, with enough room to wiggle a little. They are almost certain to need some toys or snacks to occupy them, but don't offer these immedietly. Let them sit quietly for as long as they can before offering distractions. Be careful about crayons; they can scatter and cause distruption. Try offering only one crayon per service.
Preschoolers. Toys should be less necessary by now, but an Etch-a-sketch or Doodle Pro may be prudent. Many preschoolers will also now enjoy bringing their own Bible to church. And if you take notes during the service, make sure you child has paper and pencil to take her own "notes," too.
Cuddles. Make church time even more special for kids by putting your arm around them, kissing their forehead, stroking their hair, etc.
Praise. Always praise your children for good behavior in church, and don't be too hard on the youngest ones if they are wiggly.
If your child doesn't do well...think twice about taking her somewhere else for the rest of the church service. This teaches your child that if she misbehaves, she can "get out of" sitting still. Try taking them someplace private for discipline, then bringing them back into service.
Nov 23, 2009
After the feast, more settlers arrived in the New World and the Pilgrims soon discovered they didn't have nearly enough food for everyone to make it through the winter. According to the Pilgrim's own account (written by William Bradford), they survived by eating a few grains of corn as their daily ration.
For children who've never known what it's like to be truly hungry, those five kernels of corn on their plate can really bring the suffering of the Pilgrims home. Once you've explained this bit of history to everyone, and allowed them time to comment on what it would be like to live on so little food, pass around a cup or bowl and allow each family member to place a kernel in it, while telling everyone something they are thankful for. Then end with a family prayer of thanks to God.
Nov 11, 2009
"...she picks up her Bible and goes to a cozy corner by herself to read and pray. She knows we won't interrupt her during this quarter hour. This habit with God's Word began for her, as it did for her brothers, before she could read. Like them, she listened to Bible stories from cassettes or CDs. It takes only a few seconds of thought to realize that it is smarter to get a three-year-old started with good lifetime habits than to spring a new regimen on a teenager."Hmmm...Hard to argue with that one. Even though I've always read a children's Bible with my daughter, and even though we encourage her to pray on her own, as well as with the family, we haven't talked much about "being alone with God."
So for the past week, I've been giving my four year old "Quiet Time with God." We picked a comfortable spot (I envisioned making a canopy area in her room, but she chose a simple children's couch in the living room) and I told her to use that time to talk to God and look at one of her Bible story books. I promised I wouldn't both her, and neither would her brother.
Admittedly, this Quiet Time doesn't last long. She tends to say a prayer, flip through a book, and then proclaim, "I'm done!" Not because she doesn't like the concept, but because she's not quite sure what to do with the time yet.
This Christmas, we hope to give her a kid-friendly CD player she can use during this Quiet Time. (The only CD player in our house is wall-mounted in the kitchen.) I also recall seeing Bible stories on CD at the Dollar Tree and hope to purchase some to help in this effort. Amazon also offers some Bible story downloads for young children, starting at 99 cents a file. Surprisingly, I could only find one website offering free audio downloads of children's Bible stories that I could burn to disc: StoryNory.
For older children who can read independently, I'd make sure they have a Bible simple enough they can truly read it. For tweens and teens, I highly recommend a study Bible, which offers background information that can greatly aid your child's understanding of the Bible.
And don't forget to allow your child to see you having your own Quiet Time with God.
Nov 3, 2009
Each morning, after we read the children's Bible together, I pull out one of the two volumes of this book and read her a story. Each one is short - only two or three pages, with illustrations - but explains in an interesting, novel-like style a bit of the history behind a particular hymn.
Then we pop the CD that comes with each book into a player and listen to the hymn together. Most hymns are sung by children, which means it's sometimes difficult to understand every lyric, but for the most part, we don't have much trouble. I encourage my daughter to listen closely to the words, then sing along with the last stanza, if she desires. I also let her look at the sheet music included for each song, even though she's not a strong enough reader to follow the lyrics yet. (She's fascinated by music notation, and this encourages that interest.)
She loves this musical devotional, and it's giving her not just a more mature concept of faith, but a strong foundation of songs she can turn to during the ups and downs of life. Too, since so many hymns were written out of adversity, it helps her understand that loving and following God doesn't mean our lives will be easy.
Music is such an excellent way to teach children. They are naturally drawn to song, and it makes memorization of key concepts easier. Consider adding hymns to your daily life, whether by doing a hymn devotional as we do, or by listening to hymns during quiet times during the day, or adding hymns to your family worship time. I assure you, your whole family will be enriched.